UFA of the Day: Eric Staal

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Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Eric Staal

There’s no potential UFA that’s coming off a contract with a bigger cap hit than Staal’s, but in recent years he hasn’t produced to the level you would expect from someone armed with a seven-year, $57.75 million deal.

Perhaps that’s part of what led the Carolina Hurricanes to part ways with their long-time captain by trading him to the New York Rangers on Feb. 28 in exchange for Aleksi Saarela and a pair of second-round picks. Under better circumstances, maybe Carolina would have worked out an extension with Staal before that happened.

Regardless, while he saw the trade to the Rangers as “an opportunity I needed to take,” the end result wasn’t good for him. He went from recording 33 points in 63 games with Carolina to just three goals and six points in 20 contests with the Rangers. In the playoffs, Staal had no points and a minus-seven rating.

At the same time, he wasn’t getting the big minutes with the Rangers that he was accustomed to in Carolina and that appears to be something he wants to get back to with whatever team he ends up with in 2016-17.

“I came here to fit and try to find a role that would be effective for this team,” Staal told The Record back in April. “Obviously you always want a lot more as a player. It would have been nice to see what I could have done with different chances but there were good players in good spots that we’re doing well and they had the year they had with certain players.”

Going forward he’s an interesting case given his long history of success that needs to be weighed against his offensive decline over the past few years. Is he worth the risk of another big contract at the age of 31 (32 on Oct. 29)? Would it be better for all involved if he signs a one-year deal in the hope of bouncing back and securing a better deal next summer?

As far as potential destinations go, Eric Staal might fit in with the Nashville Predators, which could use him to solidify their second-line center situation over Mike Ribeiro or Mike Fisher, especially after Ribeiro was scratched for Games 3 and 4 of their second round series against San Jose.

It’s also possible that he’ll end up back in Carolina. He did praise the Hurricanes for “doing the right thing with the young players” and his brother, Jordan Staal, is still inked through 2019-20. Plus if Staal still wants big minutes, then going back to the Hurricanes might be his best bet.

Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.